Black Lives Matter rally held at Centennial Park
It was an emotional night at Centennial Park Friday — a community event to remember George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minn.
In front of more than 100 people, a series of speakers told their stories, encouraged change and called for remembering Black people who have been killed by law enforcement.
Names were called, and repeated.
But the most emotional portion of the night came from the story of a 19-year-old Newton girl who told of her personal experience of being pulled over in her own driveway, scared nearly to death 40 feet from her own mother because of the color of her skin.
Jeana Lyons spoke for about 8 and a half minutes, talking about a night recently when she stood in her driveway in fear as she was questioned by a Newton police officer.
“An officer trailed me across town, blocked my car in my driveway and turned his lights on upon my friend and I exiting the vehicle,” Lyons said. “... He sputtered off some things about me looking suspicious while pulling into my driveway and drug activity.”
The girl she was with, who was white, acted much differently than she did while dealing with the officer.
“I understand how a person who looks like me must act in these situations,” Lyons said. “I was respectful despite my anger and used small movements. My friend, however, did not. My friend, who was Caucasian, did not sense the same intensity to the situation that I did.”
Lyons said her fear was real, and she was trying not to shake.
“I understand that I need to present, or at least present myself to this officer in a manner so that this officer will not see me as a threat,” Lyons said. “I understand that I must present myself in a certain way to stay safe and, honestly, alive.”
She was thinking of Anton Rose Jr. and Breonna Taylor, young Black people who were killed by police.
There were other youths whom she named Friday, including Aiyana Stanley Jones, DeAunta Farrow, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin.
“The only thing (they) had in common was in fact the most dangerous thing that they could have in common in these situations: black skin,” Lyons said.
Larry Lee, pastor and co-chair of the Newton Community for Racial Justice, read a statement by the NCRJ which will be released this week calling for a review of the use of force policy of law enforcement agencies in Harvey County — and the Newton Police Department, North Newton Police Department and Harvey County Sheriff’s Office in particular.
“We call for radical, sustainable solutions that affirm the equal treatment of, and respect for, Black lives,” Lee said. “George Floyd’s violent death was a breaking point — an all too familiar reminder that, for Black people, law enforcement doesn’t always protect or save our lives. They often threaten and take them.”
He also spoke about what he sees as the bigger picture.
“We stand here not just about police mistreatment, it is about systemic racism that has existed for over 400 years,” Lee said.
Ronald Moyo, pastor and owner of Moyo Clothing; Derrick Ramer, pastor of New Creation Fellowship; Victoria Adame, retired school principal; and Michelle Armster, CEO of Mennonite Central Committee Central States, also spoke during the evening.
Organizers of the rally discussed hosting another event to commemorate Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and the slaves were free.